My reply on Deaf (dis)empowerment

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while since I last posted, it was because I was in Helsinki, Finland, for a conference on Signlanguage Interpreting. I had an amazing time with my group of 7 people. The conference itself was not completely accessible (no interpreters in the afternoon and evening programs), so I can’t judge on everything that happened, but I can judge on what was said during one of the afternoon programs.

It was a workshop in spoken English, and I knew there wouldn’t be an interpreter, because non of the English spoken workshops were interpreted the days before. Because I had already followed the other workshop that was given again at the same time I ‘had to’ go to that English spoken workshop. I asked the organisation if there’d be an interpreter and they said no. So I had to pull one of my friends out of the other workshop so she could interpret for me. It was her own suggestion to do so, but it didn’t feel quite right. There should have been an interpreter, especially if they said beforehand that all would be accessible for both deaf and hearing interpreting students. It wasn’t.

After giving the organisation the feedback that everything needed to be accessible, not only for the hearing but also for the deaf interpreting students, someone who also followed the workshop replied “All the important lectures were interpreted”… I was outraged and confused… how could an INTERPRETING student disempower me and the other deaf interpreting student so much?!  Who is she to decide what’s important enough to be accessible for me? She should know better than to say that… I still get angry when I think of it.

In this blog I’m replying on this post/workshop from Trudy Suggs: Deaf Disempowerment and Today’s Interpreter

In this post the writer tells everyone about her personal experiences with disempowerment. I’m not going to talk about what Trudy said, because that’s already said. But my previous example of interpreters making a decision for me is one I wanted to share.

She ends with this: “We must remember that all individuals, deaf or hearing, should always strive for full, mutual respect rather than disempowerment”. This is what I always try to do, and what I expect other people to do as well. But in Helsinki, it wasn’t nearly the case. Most of the time I try to connect with other people, new people. That’s what I do. But almost every time people spoke back to me instead of signing. Now, I know that there’s a lot of new things going on at once when you start going to conferences, and after a day of listening to/looking at lectures that have to go through 4 interpreters (2 deaf, 2 hearing) – where information gets lost sometimes, I can understand that you want to speak your own preferred language, but don’t get angry with me if I do the same.

Now, I’m not saying that the whole conference was crap, because it wasn’t. There were many nice things: the morning lectures that were in International Sign were AMAZING – no interpreters needed for me, and I secretly laughed on the inside when a lecturer made a joke and some people who were fluent enough in IS laughed along, and the rest of the people had to wait for the 4 interpreters to figure it out properly. The spoken English workshops weren’t always fully accessible, because it went from English to Finnish Signlanguage to IS, and I missed a lot of in-between-jokes. But beside that, it was amazing to see that there were Deaf Interpreters present, it makes me want to take up interpreting again as well!

More Deaf interpreters are needed, and maybe I wouldn’t be such a great deaf interpreter – since Signlanguage isn’t my first language – but it’s my most accessible language right now, so at least I’m inspired to try. That’s the most important thing I got out of the conference – my being inspired to try and become not just a Signlanguage teacher and a nurse, but also an interpreter! That’s empowerment.

Love, Sam


My upcoming adventures as a Deaf Touretter!

Hello everyone,

Since the introductions of my Deafness and Tourettes are done, I thought I’d write something about the upcoming adventures I’ll be undertaking in the next 6 months. It’ll be so much fun, and I’d like to share my thoughts with you.

ESOSLI 2016 – Helsinki
This year in May I am going to Helsinki for a 4 day conference on Signlanguage and Interpreting. You might think: well Sam, you’re not an interpreting student, so why on earth would you want to be going to a place that will only be a confrontation of the fact that you cannot hear?
I’ll tell you why! Two years ago I co-organised ESOSLI 2014 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Back then I wasn’t an interpreting student anymore either, but I wanted to do something Internationally, for all student interpreters in Europe. It was a big success, I met loads of people (Deaf and Hearing interpreter students!) and most of all had a lot of fun learning new things about organizing things.
This year I’ll just be attending the ESOSLI conference with some of my friends (for more info, see ESOSLI 2016 ), and learning from Finnish Deaf and Hearing professionals. Can’t wait to meet the (Hearing and Deaf) interpreting students! Before and after the conference, my girlfriend Lilian and I will be sightseeing around Helsinki – so if anyone knows good places to go, let me know!

Camp Twitch & Shout
My next adventure will be in the USA. I’ve never been there before, but I’m going to be a counselor at a camp called Twitch & Shout. It’s for children and teens with Tourettes Syndrome. It’ll be a week full of activities and recognition for the kids there. As I said in my first blog: they’ll be accepted for who they are, no matter how ‘odd’ their Tics are or how much their anxiety/ADHD/OCD/depression/autism get in their way. They’ll just be part of a group, a family, for an entire week. I wish I had something like that in my childhood. Now I accept that I have Tourettes, and am losing my hearing all together, but that has only recently happened. I wish for those kids to have the best week of their year, and I hope I’ll be part of this community for a very long time!
For more information about the camp, go to Camp Twitch & Shout.

I will write more about my preparations for camp Twitch&Shout very very soon, and probably very very often!


Online meeting page of other counselors for Twitch&Shout
WOW. I love the other counselors! I posted an introduction and got a lot of nice responses. Since was 3 am when I found the meeting page and after 4am when I’m typing this you can guess that my hyperactivity levels are going through the roof right now.
So many nice people, so many stories, and one common goal: to make this camp the best camp that has yet been done!

USA travel
As I will be in the USA for the camp, I’d be bonkers if I didn’t take that opportunity to go and travel a bit! I have a friend living in Washington DC, who’s attending Gallaudet University (for who doesn’t know what that is: it’s a university where mostly Deaf students go to, in other words, ‘The Deaf University’). So I will definitely go and see her (Hi Chelsea! *waves*). My other plans are of course Atlanta, since it’s nearby where camp Twitch&Shout is, and I’d love to see the following cities:
– Chicago;
– San Fransisco;
– Los Angeles;
– Portland;
– New York City;
– Orlando;
– Washington DC;
– aaaaaaaaaand I don’t know what else, but those cities are definitely on my list. If you think I missed an amazing city, please let me know in the comments! Or if you think: Sam’s nice, lets invite her over for a citytour, always welcome! 😀

Starting a new study + internships
In september 2016 I’ll be starting (again) with the Signlanguage program at my University, but this time I’ll be attending the Teaching program. So I will become a Signlanguage teacher in a few years!

Next to that I have to re-do my 3rd year Nursing internship, which I will hopefully do at a mental health facility for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing. That way I can support people who suffer from mental illnesses, and show them that there’s light after darkness. As someone who has Tourettes (and the added anxiety/OCD/ADHD/depression that commonly comes along with Tourettes) I can relate to them, and that will be my strength!  And all of that in Signlanguage – so my ‘lack of hearing’ won’t be any issue there!

Right now
My life is pretty chaotic at the moment, but when I think about all the things I’ve written today, life’s not so bad at all! I have many things to look forward to, and many great people around me. Life’s good.

Love, Sam